Guinea Pigs

Guinea Pigs
By Dave Swift

I got hired at TransWorld SKATEboarding on somewhat sketchy terms. You see, back in 1988 skateboarding was at its peak (for the time), and the photographers and editors who worked for the mag were seasoned vets who seemed a little reluctant to hire an ex-Del Mar local better known as a troublemaker than a serious media personality. I got backing from the editor who was in charge at the time (Carl West), and on January 2, 1989, I became an assistant editor with my very own cubicle, complete with an Apple One computer. My first month was spent transcribing interview tapes and writing upcoming Check Outs, but I knew right away that I wanted to be out where the action was, and taking photos seemed like my ticket. I commandeered some used equipment that was lying around the office and made my escape. I saw how easy the staff photographers had it-they’d come in once a week for a couple of hours with a grip of new photos. Everyone kissed their asses like they were gods. Taking photos was hard at first, the big-time pros didn’t want to waste their time shooting with me, so I had to find new kids who were coming up, ones who were willing to let me experiment and learn with them. Dudes like Mike Youssefpour, Mike Prosenko, Buster Halterman, Paul Wisniewski, Jordan Richter, Peter Hewitt, and Matt Oglesby were my first photo guinea pigs. The next couple years, I traveled the world taking skate photos and doing articles, but I still didn’t get respect from the best pros. About that time, skating took a dive on the popularity chart, and vert skating took the biggest hit. Street had secured itself as the terrain of choice, and getting photos of all the new rippers was no easy task for the veteran photogs. The days of waiting for the call from Smash Skates to come and do a photo shoot down at the newly built private ramp with the best riders, all expenses paid, were over. It quickly became hard work and lots of driving around with sixteen-year-old kids just to get one or two photos in the mag each month. This proved to be too harsh a lifestyle change for most photographers, and I saw this as my chance to step in. I drove all over town to get whatever was needed, and put 3,000 miles a month on my car, but it all seemed tworthwhile. I was fortunate to get hooked up with guys like Rob Dyrdek, Eric Koston, Steve Berra, Duane Pitre, Kelly Bird, Jeremy Klein, Ron Chatman, and Frank Hirata at just the right time. They trusted me, and in return, they got photos in the mag every month. Not coincidentally, all of those guys went on to become household names, and I ended up a respectable skateboard photographer. Go figure. Thanks a lot, fellas, I couldn’t have done it without you.-Dave Swift